The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 69-9

March 24, 1969
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It would be unethical for a workmen’s compensation claimant’s attorney to withdraw when
appeal is appropriate on the sole ground that the appellate compensation would be inadequate,
unless he had established an understanding with the client that he would not handle any appeal
and unless full disclosure of the limited representation is made to the judge of industrial claims
before fees are awarded at the trial level.

NY City 626

Committeeman Daniels stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar advises that he represents workmen’s
compensation claimants and that under prevailing practice a contingent fee of $50
is the maximum awarded by the Full Commission for any type of appellate
review. We are advised that this fee is grossly inadequate and are asked if a
lawyer may ethically withdraw from compensation cases where appellate review
is or should be sought on the sole ground that inadequate compensation will be
awarded him.
We conclude that such a withdrawal would violate Canon 44, which provides in pertinent
The right of an attorney or counsel to withdraw from employment, once
assumed, arises from good cause. Even the desire or consent of the client is not
always sufficient. The lawyer should not throw up the unfinished task to the
detriment of his client except for reasons of honor or self-respect. . . .
Attorneys representing workmen’s compensation claimants are on notice that F.S.A.
440.34(3) makes it unlawful to charge such claimants any fee not approved by either the
Industrial Commission or a court of competent jurisdiction. Attorneys accepting such
employment are, accordingly, legally and ethically bound to accept only the fees so awarded.
Any withdrawal from the representation on the sole ground that the fees awarded are inadequate
would not be “for reasons of honor or self-respect” within the meaning of Canon 44. Compare:
New York City Opinion 626.
The Committee assumes for present purposes that the inquiring attorney has reference to
cases in which he has been retained to handle a claimant’s case to completion. Should the
attorney wish to undertake a claimant’s representation only before the Judge of Industrial
Claims, we see no ethical impropriety in doing so, so long as (a) the attorney has a clear
understanding with his client that he will not continue the representation if appellate proceedings

are required or taken; and (b) a full disclosure of the limited representation is made to the Judge
of Industrial Claims before any fees are awarded on the trial level.